IMF chief Georgieva says focused on job at hand, not future role

By Thomson Reuters Feb 27, 2024 | 6:18 PM

By Andrea Shalal

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – With just seven months to go in Kristalina Georgieva’s term as head of the International Monetary Fund, she said on Tuesday that she isn’t focused on whether to seek a second one.

Georgieva, whose five-year term ends in October, told Reuters she was focused on the work at hand as the IMF managing director.

“Look, I have work to do right now,” she told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of the a meeting of finance officials from the Group of 20 major economies.

“I have always been of the view that you do the job you have – not some hypothetical in the future. So let me do my job.”

Georgieva, a gregarious economist from Bulgaria, is the second woman to head the IMF and the first person from an emerging market economy.

Keeping Georgieva on for a second term would answer longstanding concerns raised by emerging market and developing countries over the U.S.-European duopoly at the two global financial institutions, the IMF and World Bank.

A self-described “eternal optimist”, Georgieva has weathered huge shocks to the global economy ranging from the outbreak of the global COVID-19 pandemic just months after she took office to the February 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.

She is focused on bolstering prospects for medium-term growth which is lagging historical levels, managing the ongoing sovereign debt challenges and guiding the IMF through a complicated quota revamp.

Georgieva drew criticism inside and outside the Fund early on for her push to include climate change as a factor in surveillance reports on member countries’ economies and her great interest in emerging market and developing economies.

She’s been instrumental in securing large loans for Ukraine, helping to catalyze additional funds to help its economy weather the strains of the two-year war against Russia’s invasion, overseen a revamp of Argentina’s massive loan program and worked steadily to help China embrace sovereign debt restructurings.

She also survived a big personal challenge in 2021 when the IMF’s executive board expressed its full confidence in her after reviewing allegations that she pressured World Bank staff to alter data to favor China while serving in a top role at that institution.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen put Georgieva on notice at the time that she would closely monitor the IMF’s follow-up and evaluate any new facts or findings, but the two have developed a good relationship since that time, according to sources familiar with both officials.

Under a longstanding agreement, European countries traditionally nominate a candidate to lead the IMF, while the U.S. nominates a candidate to head the World Bank. Both jobs are ultimately decided by the institutions’ board of directors.

Georgieva herself was a compromise candidate for European leaders who were divided between a former Dutch finance minister and a Spanish economy minister in 2019 to replace outgoing IMF chief Christine Lagarde.

Sources familiar with the process said the selection could go quickly once Europe unites around a candidate.

While Georgieva’s term won’t end for months, some say it makes sense to make decisions before the April spring meetings of the IMF and World Bank, so the leadership issue does not overshadow the already full agenda for the meetings.

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Additional reporting by David Lawder; Editing by Sonali Paul)